One way or the other, we were coming out of TakeOver: New York on Fri., April 5 with a new NXT champion, and the brand’s first ever Triple Crown champion. And after winning a best-of-three falls match 2 - 1, it’s Johnny Gargano who can make those claims
Amidst dueling chants from the Brooklyn crowd, Johnny Gargano & Adam Cole locked up. The kid from Cleveland set the pace early, but when the Panama City Playboy caught Gargano with a enziguri from the floor, Cole took control. Things continued to go back-and-forth as the story was that the two men who’d faced each frequently throughout their indie days were too evenly matched. But Undisputed ERA’s leader connected with his Last Shot finisher around the 15 minute mark, and Johnny had an uphill climb in front of him.
It almost looked like the match would end shortly after that, as Cole hit another Last Shot. But Gargano became the first man to kick out of the move in WWE. He quickly followed that up with a spear on the apron and a follow-up cannonball to the floor, and both men were weary. A spike DDT on the apron from Johnny sent both men to the floor, but Gargano wouldn’t take a win by countout. He did things the right way and almost paid for it when Cole sent him crashing into two ringposts. But in the ring, the former #DIYer was able to lock in his submission finisher. After a quick tap, it was one fall to a finish.
The third fall was as evenly matches as you’d imagine, including a sequence where Cole & Gargano hit a series of moves on one another simultaneously. Nearfalls came often, but it looked like Johnny might have ended it with a reverse spike rana followed by a superkick... if momentum hadn’t sent his opponent to the floor. Gargano again tried to do the right thing and not win the title by countout, and again he paid for it when he was suplexed into the side of the ring.
A flurry of finishers followed, as the crowd was whipped into a frenzy. But it looked like the Panama City Playboy might have made a fatal mistake when he decided to taunt Johnny as a failure. Gargano was incensed and tried to put Cole through the announce table, but the move was reversed and Johnny was hit with the Fairy Tale Ending.
Cole was willing to win by countout, but Gargano somehow recovered to beat the count at nine. He also kicked out of a superkick that followed! Not even a full run-in by the ERA’s Roderick Strong, Kyle O’Reilly & Bobby Fish during a ref bump could stop him. Johnny fought all of them off by himself, and then kicked out of two superkicks and a Last Shot from Cole!
It looked like the end was finally there when Cole lined Gargano up for the Last Shot again. But Johnny ducked, the Garga-No Escape was locked in, and the boyhood dream came true.
He celebrated with his wife Candice LeRae, and with his family, and the entire crowd. And then this happened..
He’d been telling us for years he was the hero of this story. On WrestleMania weekend, Johnny Gargano finally proved it.
For a complete rundown of everything that happened at Barclays Center tonight, head to our live blog here.